On a lovely Thanksgiving day years back, my brother Bob and I went to visit my mother’s grave in St. Catharines. I hadn’t been back to my hometown in six or seven years, and a psychologist suggested that visiting her final resting place might give me some closure.
After a brief visit, Bob and I went for a drive along the country roads where we grew up. I had forgotten what a beautiful place this was, with the orange and red leaves on the maples, and the rows and rows of grapevines. Our drive took us into Port Dalhousie, the place we lived as teenagers. We cruised over the bridge that framed the site of the Royal Henley Regatta, into old Port and along Lake Ontario. This was a place were I wanted to retire one day.
“I know this is creepy,” I said to Bob. “Can we go down Bayview Drive? I want to see the Bernardo house.”
Bob glanced sideways and rolled his eyes and shrugged. Another suggestion from his weird sister.
Our car crunched along the street through the autumn leaves and came to a stop in front of a once beautiful Cape Cod home, the kind I had always wanted to live in. It was long deserted, this place, the windows boarded up, graffiti all over the walls. I looked at the basement windows, all broken and boarded, and knew were evil had once lived. That basement was the place where Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy took their last breaths. That basement was where Paul Bernardo had taken a saw and dismembered the body of Leslie, then encased her remains in concrete.
It gave me chills.
“It’s just not right,” I said to Bob.
I’d learned a few years later that the house been razed, demolished and taken away. I’m not sure what stands there today. Whatever it is, it has to be better than having a constant reminder of what happened to those innocent girls on a once peaceful street full of families.
There is talk in the news today that neighbours of Russell Williams want his cottage to be demolished, destroyed along with his car and the thousands of photographs and video tapes made by the man who brought evil to another peaceful town, the community of Tweed. That cottage is the place where Jessica Lloyd closed her eyes for the last time; it is also the place where she endured hours of torture and violation.
We need to remember Jessica, the beautiful hopeful girl she was. It’s important.
But the community needs to purge itself of Russell Williams in all ways possible. He will be locked up down the road in Kingston, but all traces of his deeds need to be destroyed if the community wants peace. The cottage must go — for the health of the community.